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Your Puppy's First Year: What to Expect

Your Puppy's First Year: What to Expect

 Jose Sanchez


Larchmont Animal Clinic

If you recall the article “What to Expect When Expecting: Your Kitten's First Year”, we went over predictable behaviors of our growing feline friends, insight into their early years, and vaccine protocols. In this case, it is time for the dogs to be let out. By the end of the article we hope you feel reassured in what to expect when expecting puppies. 

Birth to 4 weeks

Although no two dogs are ever the same, there are some common life stages that we can follow. As stated with kittens, really young puppies should stay with their mothers until they are at least 8 weeks old. Pups are born toothless, with their eyes and ears sealed, and pretty wobbly on their little feet. As a result of this puppies will sleep about 90 percent of the time. 

You may hear a bit of grunting or crying, but don’t be alarmed.  Just like a human baby a pup cries when he or she needs nourishment. Their eyes and ears will begin to open during their second and third weeks. A couple of weeks later they begin to crawl, stand, and walk on their own. Please also note that no vaccinations should be given in the first 4 weeks of a young pup. 

4 weeks to 3 months

 During this time period puppies learn to socialize and explore their surroundings.  As their coordination improves their interest in playing with others increases and they learn how to inhibit their urge to put everything in their mouth or bite. This is done in order for pups to know when to draw the line if they are play-fighting too roughly.

Obviously if we are talking about biting already we need to address their teeth. Around 5 to 6 weeks old, puppies will have all of their baby teeth. They will start to eat solid food even though they may still be nursing until they are closer to 8 weeks.  From this point until all of their adult teeth have grown in at around 6 months, they will need to chew a lot to relieve the irritation of their gums.

Lastly, we are finally into the first round of vaccines. The DHPP or Canine Distemper vaccine is a combination vaccine that helps against several illnesses. These include distemper, adenovirus, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Just to give you an idea as to what these diseases can do, distemper causes flu like symptoms, and parvovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea. Please get your pup’s first vaccine at 8 weeks of age as it is essential to their health.

4 to 6 months

 At 4 months, your puppy will begin to grow quickly. They have an abundant amount of energy, become a lot more curious, and grow stronger. Rough play becomes the norm and they will begin to engage with you a lot more. You’ll notice this “rough-housing” is a lot more different than the fun little fur ball they were.

This is attributed to a dog’s basic functions of testing their rank in their “pack”. They will become territorial and challenge other dogs, animals, and humans (mainly mailmen but that can neither be confirmed or denied by science). Also, you should note that both female and male puppies can become sexually active. However, you do not want to spay or neuter your pup until they are around 6 months or older. Now we have made it into our next round of vaccines.

Not only is the DHPP vaccine returning, bordetella, leptospirosis, and corona are all going to be your pups ally. Bordetella protects against kennel cough and corona against canine coronavirus which causes vomiting, fever, and a loss of appetite.

The leptospirosis vaccine protects against an illness caused by bacteria spreading through soil, water, or even the urine of infected animals. If your pup has a cut or open sore this could cause the infection to be even worse. The rabies vaccine is required by the city between 4 to 6 months of age. Pretty straight forward, rabies is a viral disease that can affect the brain in both mammals and humans. 

6 to 12 months

 The teenage period of time is here and like any teen they will continue to reinforce their status in the household. They will start to ignore you and naturally act more rebellious (this is why we have parents). Of course, they will always want to play, but now it may become a bit rowdier. Especially with your pup’s new strength and size. Also, they have all of their adult teeth and they may have learned to inhibit their urge to bite. They may also go through another chewing phase.

Consider getting larger durable toy to give them an alternative to chewing on house hold objects and furniture. However, it is just a phase and will pass. Between 6-12 months male puppies will begin to lift their leg to pee. Both genders will also get their adult fur. Although there is plenty of growing left physically, that puppy mentality (or rebellious teenage mindset) will linger.

Most small dog breeds are mature around 12 months, but large breeds will continue to act like puppies up until about 18 months. In either case, you’ve successfully made it through one year with your pup. As a final reminder please spay or neuter your dog as it’s not only beneficial for you dog but is required by law.

To conclude no two dogs are the same but we hope through this short article you feel more prepared for your newest family member and as always, our Hancock Park veterinarians are here to serve you and pooch